Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Word for 2018

I have never before participated in the popular non-resolution-making idea of choosing a word for the coming year, so...it's time!

My word for 2018 is "heart."

At our church, we're beginning a year in the book of John, and our theme is "Heart to Heart." So I was already primed for this image, but a couple Sundays ago in church, while our preacher was reminding us that Jesus really is a person, not just a concept, I felt an almost physical sensation of warmth and tightness, like a hug, just a little left of the center of my chest. The thought entered my brain, "Jesus is hugging my heart." I stopped listening to the sermon and sat there noticing and allowing this sensation, and trying to hold tears back as I continued to feel that it was indeed Jesus embracing me at the core of my being.

(What a long way I've come, with God's help, from a time when what little sense of being I had, I considered too unloveable for anyone to embrace. God really does transform lives!)

The word "heart" to me symbolizes a vulnerability that I have to be willing to choose. I have to stop all the wheels spinning--the busyness, the thoughts, the actions of juggling daily life (which for me also means becoming vulnerable because I can use these things as defenses)--and I have to rest for a few minutes in the presence of God. Just as I sometimes have to pull away from "all the things" and re-establish a relational connection with my husband, reminding myself (and him) that our marriage is one of the most important things, so I also must seek out the Lord, not just for a quick mental check-in (which I try to do frequently) but for a real embrace and a rest.

"Heart." Heart-to-heart time with Jesus. And with my heart held tightly by God, how much more will I be to minister to the hearts of others? Transformation of hearts is another ongoing prayer of my heart, so my word will remind me to pray for my own heart and the hearts of others, and to do what I can to touch hearts in ministry.



Saturday, January 06, 2018

2017 Family Update

Rear L to R: Jedi Knight, Blondechick, Daughter-in-Love, B22, B19, Chicklet, B26
Front L to R:  B12, Grandpa Rooster, Mama Hen, Papa Rooster, Brother Rooster, Niece Rooster

Since I didn't post much in 2017, I'm overdue for an update! I'll try to keep it from getting too long.... 

In 2016, you recall, we had two weddings. In 2017, we had two more exciting announcements--a granddaughter due in April, and another grandchild due in June!


This summer, Bantam22 and his lovely wife moved into a rental house that is a 3-minute walk from ours. In late 2016, Father Rooster's brother and his daughter, our niece, moved from Chicago to live with Grandpa, a 10-minute walk in the other direction. So we haven't really felt the emptiness one might expect after marrying off two kids; there are more of us than ever, it seems, when we have family get-togethers!

We are thrilled to have Brother Rooster playing guitar and singing with our worship team every Sunday now. Remember when my sidebar used to have a prayer request for a guitar player to help lead worship? He's been helping us out for years now, even when he was driving up from Chicago, but we love having him every week now. 

At church, we have several small groups going that are really exciting. We've been starting to practice Immanuel Prayer with individuals in need of healing and are amazed at how effective it is at connecting them to Jesus. We've been joined by a number of new folks in 2017 and we're excited about the ways our congregation is growing spiritually. We've had several baptisms this year and seen several nominal believers give their lives fully to Christ! Although our church continues to struggle financially, and Father R and I were praying about whether he would have to return to the business world in 2018, someone just recently pledged to cover the deficit each month, allowing Father R to continue to receive the part-time salary we've been depending on. It's just one example of how we've seen God encouraging us at Light of Christ. It's amazing to see how God acts and moves in the lives of various individuals to confirm His plans!

In June, Bantam18 graduated from high school, the enormous public school that we hesitated to send him to as a freshman, coming from homeschooling. But it strengthened his faith, and he had many great experiences there, in music and theater especially. 

As a freshman, he was invited to join the Madrigal Singers, an honor usually reserved for juniors and seniors, so he was able to participate all 4 years in Ye Olde Christmasse Feaste, a 7-course medieval banquet featuring the Madrigal Singers.

He had 4 years with an amazing choir director, recognized as a model director by the Wisconsin State Choral Directors' Association, who invited their choir to perform at their annual conference, with our boy singing a solo.

In theater, B18 capped off his Spotlight/CYT career with wonderful performances as Judas in Godspell and as Fagin in Oliver

His high school theater director cast him in a dream role--John Adams in 1776--in a production that ended up being selected to perform at the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska, in June. Papa R, myself, B12 and Chicklet went along for the experience, and also for the opportunity to visit Professor Brother's family in Kansas (a wonderful, too-short visit). B18 was really magnificent as John Adams, and it was a fantastic finish to his high school drama career.
He ended up choosing to go to Carthage College, right here in Kenosha, so he could live at home and save on housing costs--and because he received a huge scholarship to study music. So he's developing his lovely baritone voice, honing his keyboarding skills, and studying composition as well. He isn't really planning on music as a career, but we'll see what happens. At least he'll graduate with just a few small loans, and it's great to have him around still, at home and at church.

Chicklet finished her 8th grade year at the Title 1 middle school she attended for two years, which was really quite good for her faith, her character, and her academics overall. She is currently a freshman at the same high school B18 attended, enjoying the same choir director, and navigating the transition well despite its many challenges (which sometimes makes her miss homeschooling). Last year in theater, she was a Cheerleader in High School Musical and Mrs. Sowerberry and the Milkmaid in Oliver.  This past fall, she was a wonderful Grace Farrell in Annie...


...and she is currently rehearsing for her role as Ariel in The Little Mermaid! She loves dancing with the Project Dance team and being on the CYT servant leadership team, HYPE, which has been a wonderful group of spiritually encouraging friends.

B12 continues in his second year at a K-8 charter school where he is a happy, social, 7th grader. He generally chooses soccer over theater, and last spring, his recreational team won the championship for their division, with no small thanks to B12's boundless energy on the field. He was given the Energizer Bunny award by the coaching staff, who said they had never seen the limits of his stamina! He skipped Annie but is in Little Mermaid currently, in several ensemble roles, and he enjoys singing in choirs at church and at school. 

He and big brother B26 have bonded playing Airsoft on the weekends, at a battleground where teams are formed with whoever comes. B26 continues to help out with many chores at home, in addition to working 8-10 hours a week at his stocking job. He also posts sermons on our church website, and he's a big contributor to Halopedia and Destinypedia, websites about the stories of his two favorite videogames.

Blondechick started cosmetology school just before she found out she was pregnant, and she's really enjoying learning the trade! She's looking forward to being a mom, and to moving into a new apartment in February. She'll have 4 months of school to finish after she returns from maternity leave, so she and her husband are thankful that both their mothers live near enough to help babysit. Then she'll have her license and the potential for flexible, part-time income doing something she really enjoys. Lots to be thankful for!

B22 was recently hired as a recruiter by a family friend who thought his charismatic personality was going to waste at Starbucks. It's a good fit for him in so many ways, and a lucky break for a kid that wasn't excited about college. His earning potential is ultimately the same as with a degree, without the student loans! The only downside is the 45+ minute commute to Illinois, but it's worth it.

While I am most excited about all that God is doing in our church context, I am also thankful for the opportunities I have to impact kids and families while teaching drama and directing musicals at CYT. This fall I directed Annie in Kenosha, and it was a joy! I have also been on several teams as assistant director, and I will be AD'ing this spring for James and the Giant Peach. While there are internal voices that cause me sometimes to question this use of my time, I continue to receive confirmation from God that it's exactly where He wants me. It's been a life-giving organization for our family and so many others! I also keep subbing to make ends meet, and while it can be a really discouraging job, I am thankful for the income and the chance to pray, at least, for the students and their regular teachers.

2017 saw us dealing with flooding in our basement three times. The third time we also had water in the attic and running down the wall in Chicklet's bedroom. Thirteen thousand dollars later, we now have a sump pump in the basement, redirected drainage pipes outside, new flashing and cornice stones on the roof, and tuckpointing redone on our chimneys, all over our brick house, and especially on the front porch which was rapidly separating from the rest of the house. 

So all my earnings are going toward those expenses--boo--and we need more tuckpointing done in the spring! But our house continues to be a center of ministry, since our church doesn't have a building, and every week we host groups, meetings and counseling sessions, thankful for the layout that allows separate space for the family during these times. 
Besides our visit to Professor Brother & Family in Kansas, we enjoyed visiting Pilot Brother's family in their newly-built home, on the site of the original Civil War-era house on our family farm. They salvaged and reinstalled doors, windows, hardwood floors, doorknobs, hinges, a slate handpainted fireplace, and the grand curved staircase from the original home. They are keeping chickens in the henhouse pictured in my banner (above)! It's great to have them in the same location as my parents. More reasons to visit Ohio!

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Books Read in 2017

Surprisingly, I read/listened to 53 books last year! Usually I annotate each one, but in the interests of time, this year I've only commented on a few.

Key:
* Recommended
**Read these first!
' Disappointing

Adult Fiction:
**Bel Canto (Ann Patchett)
**All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr)
The Shell Collector:  Stories (Anthony Doerr)
**The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)
*Water For Elephants (Sara Gruen) (I really enjoyed the audio version. The old man had the BEST gravelly, grumpy, petulant character voice. What a performance!) 
**The End of the Affair (Graham Greene) (Why have I never heard of this extraordinary novel before?? I loved the audio version, read by Colin Firth.)
*The Museum of Extraordinary Things (Alice Hoffman)
The Red Garden (Alice Hoffman)
Turtle Moon (Alice Hoffman)
Faithful (Alice Hoffman)
Longbourn (Jo Baker)  (Interesting parallel story to Pride and Prejudice, told about the serving staff.)
'The Nest (Cynthia Sweeney)

Mysteries:
Partners in Crime (Agatha Christie)
Spider's Web (Agatha Christie)
A Rule Against Murder (Louise Penny)
The Cruelest Month (Louise Penny)
The Brutal Telling (Louise Penny)
Bury Your Dead (Louise Penny)
A Trick of the Light (Louise Penny)
The Beautiful Mystery (Louise Penny)
How the Light Gets In (Louise Penny)
The Nature of the Beast (Louise Penny)
Glass Houses (Louise Penny)
Death and the Dancing Footman (Ngaio Marsh)
'Murder in the Dark (Kerry Greenwood)
*Talking about Detective Fiction (P.D. James) (essays from lectures she's given)

Children's/YA Fiction:
*From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E.L. Konigsberg)
*My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George)
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (John Boyne)
*Entwined (Heather Dixon)
Theater Shoes (Noel Streatfeild)
Ghost (Jason Reynolds)

Historical/Biographical Nonfiction:
*The Devil in the White City:  Murder, Magic & Madness and the Fair That Changed America (Erik Larson)
*In the Garden of Beasts:  Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin (Erik Larson)
*The Girls of Murder City : Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired Chicago (Douglas Perry)
The Churchills:  In Love and War (Mary S. Lovell)
Girl Waits With Gun (Amy Stewart)
The Man He Became:  How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency (James Tobin)
Martin Luther (Eric Metaxes)
Alexander Hamilton:  The Outsider (Jean Fritz)
'The Great Fire (Jim Murphy)
'Traveling With Pomegranates (Sue Monk Kidd)

Nonfiction:
The Meaning of Flowers (Gretchen Scoble)
How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age (based on Dale Carnegie's work)
The Successful Novelist (David Morrell)
Scarcity : Why Having Too Little Means So Much (Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir)

Theatercraft:
*Notes on Directing (Frank Hauser and Russell Reich)
*Audition (Michael Shurtleff)
Conversations with Choreographers (Svetlana McLee Grody and Dorothy Daniels Lister)

Plays:
*A Raisin in the Sun (Lorraine Hansberry) (loved this as a dramatized audiobook)
The Children's Hour (Lillian Hellman)
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Edward Albee)
**William Shakespeare's Star Wars:  Verily, A New Hope (Ian Doescher)

If you'd like to see other year-end book lists, visit the Saturday Review of Books, Special Edition, A List of Book Lists at the blog Semicolon.

Happy reading in 2018!


Monday, January 01, 2018

Blogiversary #12

Last night was my 12-year blogiversary.

It's sad to me that my posts are so infrequent now. When I look back, I'm thrilled to have the record of so many events and moments, and I enjoy reading my own writing. (I find that encouraging.)

But things are different now from those days when I blogged so regularly. I'm just not able to stay awake late at night as I used to! Little kids have become teens who stay up, and my husband stopped traveling nearly 4 years ago. Now I spend busy evenings with them rather than quiet nights writing about them. (Though I sometimes miss those quiet nights.... But I would never trade away the millions of spoken words we've exchanged in those late-night heart-to-hearts!)

Also, as kids get older, one can't write about them as much without crowding their privacy. As we've gone deeper into ministry, the most exciting things I'm observing is how God is transforming lives, but I can't share those stories on the internet. When God is doing such amazing things, other subjects pale in significance and seem trivial to write about!

No matter what subject I choose, there is the need to write cautiously and guardedly--how might this post come across to my employers, or how might this comment, or that one, have unintended consequences? 

And then there's Facebook, that makes it so easy to share a photo and mark the big life events. So why share it again on my blog?

Additionally, I am working now, as a substitute teacher in the public schools. I'm also teaching drama classes and working on directing teams for musicals with our theater group, CYT--which I love and which God keeps confirming as a ministry. Throw in several weekly small groups and my other church involvements, and it doesn't leave much time for laundry and making meals, let alone writing.  

I've tried to reimagine my blog at different points--bullet posts? an online devotional?--but life keeps crowding out my best intentions.

Still, I hesitate to fold it. I have two posts already in process--my annual list/review of books I read last year, and a family update, long overdue and mostly finished.

So I'll keep my little publishing place for now. Cheers! 

A blessed 2018 to any readers I still have! 

(Especially to Moyra from the UK, who has left me a sweet comment every year on my blogiversary post! Your encouragement has meant more to me than you'll ever know!)

 (And also to those of you who tell me in person that you enjoy and miss my blog posts. You have encouraged me so much as a writer!)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Thoughts on the Arts and Subbing



I'm currently listening to an audio version of a biography called The Churchills: In Love and War (because, The Crown). So when I saw this meme*, I had to share. Churchill is on my mind, and the arts are dear to my heart. 

Since I've been substitute teaching in the public schools, I believe in the power of the arts more than ever. 

I've been in some very fine classrooms that I would be happy for my own kids to be part of. But I've also been in places that I would have to call an educational wasteland. I'm not going to lay out here what all I think is wrong with our educational system, but in our area, poverty is a huge contributing factor.  Kids who don't have basic needs met--for food, sleep, stability, and security, as well as love, care and parents in their lives--don't have brains that have bandwidth to learn long division or the French revolution.

But what they CAN absorb, I firmly believe, is music, art, theater and PE. (In my opinion, sports are a form of art as much as dance is.) And I believe it contributes far more to brain development and receptiveness than most would think.

One afternoon I was assigned to an elementary classroom for behavior-disordered students. There were only two students, and they were eating lunch in their own classroom.The teacher was letting them watch YouTube videos projected on the Promethean board. They were choosing animated movie trailers, but when I came back from the washroom, they were watching a clip from The Nutcracker ballet. The fifth grade girl was very excited. "We watched this in music class, the whole thing!"

She located the full-length version and was immediately engrossed in the wordless drama as it unfolded through acting and dance. Occasionally she would stand up and move around, mimicking the dancers' graceful or energetic movements.

Meanwhile the fourth grade boy in the class, who'd been having a rough morning--hitting and biting--got worked up and they ended up taking him home to grandma, who didn't have a car, so the teacher and aide drove him. I was left to watch The Nutcracker with the young lady, and it ended up that we watched for over an hour. 

It was remarkable that she was able to remain attentive and delighted with it for so long. It was evident that it really spoke to something deep inside her. When we did finally turn to her worksheets, she was cooperative and pleasant, and an incentive for finishing them quickly was that she was allowed to go join a kindergarten gym class as a helper. We finished out the day there--with her insisting that I hula-hoop alongside her, until it was clear that she was much better at it than me. Before she left, she hugged me and asked if I could please come back. 

Some days, she's allowed to go help in the library too. I was so happy for her that there are adults at that school that seemed to understand her, and I prayed that next year, in middle school, she'd receive the same kind of consideration. But what I've seen at the upper levels, more and more, is kids who are just killing time in the prison walls. The really motivated students have great academic opportunities, but for the unmotivated ones, or the low-functioning ones? They are completely disengaged and checked out, on their phones whenever possible and just waiting for the bell to release them.

In my opinion, they need alternative learning experiences which the public school just doesn't provide. They need to study topics of high interest or applicability. They need hands-on learning by doing. Certainly they have non-academic abilities that they are not developing, and therefore not gaining the confidence that could come from mastery and excelling in something. 

This fifth grade girl, it was clear to me, is a dancer or an athlete! Maybe a singer, too. If she were my project, I'd have her spending hours a day on dance and conditioning. We'd study history and literature by watching ballets and musicals. We'd compare and contrast them for critical thinking and writing. We'd read the stories they are based on. We'd study the human body. For math, we'd choreograph 8-counts and 32-counts; we'd contrast beats of a waltz, a march, and a tango; we'd figure out costs of dance lessons and ballet shoes. I wouldn't sweat it if she didn't learn algebra or chemistry. 

In case she were not able to make it as a professional dancer, I'd help her explore pathways for becoming a choreographer, or a dance instructor, or at least be equipped to work in a retail dance store. I'd also have her learn to cook, budget, shop the sales and the thrift stores, and use a sewing machine to alter a costume. 

It would be a great if she could get all this in a fine arts school, but it also sounds a bit like homeschooling, eh? One thing I have come to appreciate is how even on a bad day of homeschooling, my kids had access to all kinds of enriching activities that they were motivated to engage in, even if they weren't academic ones. After they finished a worksheet, they weren't just killing time in a cinder-block classroom.

Has it made me re-think my decision to have my two youngest in public school? I'm always open to returning to it...but for now, I'm thankful that I can work. B11 is in an excellent program in an enriching environment, and he's an extrovert who loves the classroom setting. Chicklet14's school is more of a mixed bag, but she has many fine teachers that she loves, and she is highly motivated to spend her free time reading. That's an activity we filled our homeschooling days with, so I feel pretty good about her. As we have always done, we'll take it year by year!

As an aside, I am shocked at the lack of books and reading materials in high school classrooms. If students finish work early, there is no expectation that they read; they are allowed to get on their phones. If I were a high school principal who wanted to raise test scores, I'd require books and magazines in every classroom, including coffee table books of art and photography, graphic novels, and even comic books for kids who "hate" reading. (It's all available cheap at garage sales and thrift stores, and book lovers would donate.) It's called a "print-rich environment" and again--the arts. Literature, story...it's art. I also would prescribe read-aloud time to be part of every elementary and middle school day. As a sub, when reading aloud been part of the lesson plan, I've seen incredible engagement from kids who did not tune in to other lessons.

My heart aches for kids I see who hate school, hate reading, and have not had extended exposure to the arts. Conversely, I see how life-giving the arts are for the kids who are involved in choir, theater, and dance in our high schools, and I know that sports and the visual arts are lifelines for others. I would love to see the arts, and movement generally, a bigger part of education, including bringing recess back to the elementary schools. Like the arts, recess primes brains for learning!

Stepping off my soapbox now...I've been much more long-winded than I intended. I do apologize if I sound as if my ideas are superior; please recognize this post is largely reaction and contrast, rather than proscription for educational change. I am truly humbled by those who are in these challenging classrooms every day! I've sat on this post for awhile, but feel it's time to stop overthinking. So, with apologies, these are a few thoughts...inspired by Winston Churchill! 

*So as I am about to publish, I discover that he never really said it. Disappointing....especially after using the quote as a springboard for my whole post. But I stand by the thoughts it inspired!


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Hamilton: Parody, Pastiche, Satire, Spoof!

So I've been teaching a comedy class for teenagers, and I'm writing my own curriculum as I go. This week, we covered parody, satire, spoofs, and a less well-known but very similar genre, pastiche.

To help the class understand the distinctions--(the general public does not, by the way, and often uses parody, satire and spoof interchangeably)--I showed them videos which all had the same starting point: the hit musical Hamilton.

It was a pretty good lesson, so just for grins--and while all the links still work--I thought I'd post it here!

We'll start with the original work, for those who don't know it--the opening number of Hamilton. There are no really good recordings available, but here's the best we have:


Notice the song is dramatic, intense, and full of words. Others will imitate and poke fun at these qualities.

First, we'll view a parody--an imitation that pokes gentle fun at the original. One minute is enough to get the idea, if you're pressed for time:


In this case, it's a parody of both Hamilton AND Harry Potter! We can tell it's supposed to be funny, because of the bad wigs and costumes, for starters.

Next, let's view something very similar, and yet quite different. Though this performance is also a humorous imitation of the Hamilton opening number, it is meant to be taken seriously. The production values are much higher than the parody we just watched, and it is an excellent performance in its own right. When an imitation is more of a tribute, or is created in imitative admiration of the original work, it's called a pastiche.


Now, let's look at a Hamilton satire. A satire is supposed to be funny, but it also makes a point, usually a political, societal or cultural critique. (Two minutes or so is enough to get the idea....)


While the idea of Hamilton performed with an all-white cast is quite funny, their point about "reverse racism" is social commentary.

Finally, a spoof is so similar to parody that it's even considered a sub-type of parody, but the main distinguishing features are that spoofs are often meant to make fun of not just one work, but a whole body of work, and they are often not as true to the original material as a parody.

The following video imitates Hamilton but it's really a spoof about high school musicals in general. It also spoofs the documentary genre. The Hamilton imitations are performed poorly, on purpose, and are not very true to the original material.


Hopefully you now clearly understand the distinctions between a parody, a pastiche, a satire, and a spoof!

I'll throw one more out, for free. A farce--while also a comedic genre and sometimes used synonymously with satire and parody--doesn't really belong in this group because it is not imitative by definition. A farce is a highly improbable, exaggerated comedic situation, with a plot that spirals further and further out of control. But it's an original work, not an imitation of another work. Even if it does imitate a comedic situation, it's not a key source of the humor. Arsenic and Old Lace, Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry, and Weekend at Bernie's are all movies about a corpse--or more than one corpse--with characters trapped in the situation, trying to figure out what to do about it/them. All three are farces in their own right; you can enjoy any one of them without reference to the other.

And last, NOT for free--Hamilton tickets! Chicklet and I are YUGE fans and really hope to see it before it leaves Chicago. We are saving our pennies, but we'll accept contributions of any amount. :)

Hopefully it's here for a long time!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Couple Number Two

I guess you could call it a whirlwind romance. A year ago, they hadn't even met!

But by June, they were engaged.

(Wait, what?? Even as I write that, I question it!) 

How did that even happen?

I'll back up a bit, to November or December of 2015. B21 (or B20, as he was then) and I were having one of those cautious conversations about life and his future. I was fishing for information about a new girl he was interested in--who didn't sound like daughter-in-law material--and as he tried to avoid telling me more, I said, "If you don't want to tell me about her, then believe me, she's not the right girl. When you meet the right girl, you'll feel like you can't wait for me to meet her!"

Fast-forward to February and another conversation about his future. We had been discussing steps toward college, a job change, maybe even a move...and he says, "Well, but now there is this girl." Soon, he brings her by.


Let me preface that story by saying that B21 has had a tendency, over the years, to play knight in shining armor to young ladies who needed rescuing. We usually saw red flags in a first meeting. To our surprise and delight, this gal (oh dear, I don't have a pseudonym yet!), struck us at once as superbly healthy. She was confident, poised, open, friendly and NICE. She seemed totally comfortable with us and with herself. What's more, B21 was different in her presence. He was relaxed and light-hearted. He was enjoying being with us, with her. He was in no hurry to rush off with her. 


After they left, we all agreed she was a keeper. Chicklet astutely observed, "I really like her; and I really like B21 when he's with her!"

That night, I waited up for him so I could tell him how much I approved. Later, he said that was a turning point for him. He began taking her to meet all the significant people in his life. It was just as I'd predicted:  He couldn't wait to introduce her to everyone he cared about!

Everyone gave him green lights to move forward.

Interestingly, in a way she was in need of rescuing. I remember when B21 told us with trepidation, before we met her, that she was only 17, and she had a son, not quite 2. He was surprised when each of us, separately, instead of cautioning him against getting serious with her, told him that although it would add some challenges, we didn't think it was an insurmountable problem. In fact, we thought it said good things about her courage, her convictions and her maturity.

He said he liked her from the start--they were both employed at Starbucks, though not at the same store--and when he heard that she had a child, he thought, "Wow,  it's going to take a special guy to come along and step into that situation." As he got to know her, he remembers thinking, "Why can't I be that guy?"


Given her youth, it's ironic that he was most attracted to her maturity! He was also strongly impressed by what a good mother she was. B21 has always loved kids and looked forward to being a father, and it was important to him to marry someone who also wanted a family and would be a good mom. He loved how she didn't take herself too seriously and frequently laughed at herself; he was also thrilled that she could cook, and she was organized. "She's a lot like you, Mom," he said, and I nearly cried.

He was done with casual dating, and he told her he was only interested in a serious relationship. She wasn't eager for him to form a relationship with her son unless he was going to be around permanently. He told her he was going to follow the Lord and that was the most important thing in his life. She said that was the path she was traveling too, and she was eager to journey with him.

As parents, we all thought that though they were young, they were mature, and they were well-suited to each other. They had an easy, complementary relationship, and they slipped into co-parenting as if they'd been doing it for years.

With all that settled, the only question, really, was timing! They lived about 45 minutes apart, on opposite sides of Kenosha county. Between driving to see each other, to go to work, and to drop off and pick up her son (who she shares in a joint custody arrangement), they were spending so much in gas and time that neither could afford, especially with both of them planning to start college in the fall: How could they add wedding planning on top of that, if they aimed for the following summer? It seemed their grades would be most likely to suffer.

Perhaps they should just get married first? We felt it made the most sense. Afraid we were not objective, I asked a psychologist friend, who knew them both, if there were any reasons to consider having them wait longer to get married:  She said absolutely not! So, with that reassurance, and with Blondechick and Jedi Knight planning an August wedding, October sounded about right. After their June 4 engagement, they had a little over four months to plan--plenty of time. :)

She said she would have dressed up more if she had seen it coming. She was totally taken by surprise!

He proposed atop a Kenosha landmark on an unusually foggy evening. 
But first, in mid-June, she had to graduate! For her last two years of high school, she completed her coursework though eAchieve Academy, the same virtual school that B21 and his younger brother had attended several years before. 


May was a big month for the three of them too, as they all had milestone birthdays. He turned 21, she turned 18, and their little boy turned 2.

Running out of room for the rest of the story...but they are married now. (I will do a post of wedding pictures soon!) They're cozy in their own apartment. They bring their laundry over to our house, and we watch our step-grandson occasionally when their work schedules overlap--so we see them quite frequently! They attend Light of Christ on Sundays too.

We couldn't be more thankful to God for our new daughter-in-law!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy Eleven Years of Blogging to Me


After an extremely eventful 2016, it's nice to have nothing going on, really, on New Year's Eve!

It was on a very similar NYE eleven years ago that I decided a new year was a good time to start a new project, and I wrote my first blog post. Without going back and looking, I'm pretty sure it was a short review of the movie we'd watched the night before, Cheaper By the Dozen.

Yesterday, I had reason to go searching back through my blog's archive for significant dates in the life of our church. We are about to celebrate our 10-year anniversary in mid-January, and our communications staff person is putting together a list of milestones in our church history.

As I scrolled through old posts, I was amazed at how much I captured and how much I used to write! So many details were recorded here, including things I had completely forgotten.

I am so thankful to have it, and I wish I'd been able to keep it up better in recent years. I used to stay up after the kids were in bed, especially when Papa Rooster was traveling; these days I just don't get the second wind I used to get, the kids are all still up, and PR deserves more of my attention than he usually gets in the evenings. I just can't add blogging at night to the mix anymore. The days are over-full, and I've never been a morning person.

Still I keep hoping to make more time for it! So I don't let it go completely. Maybe in 2017....

Feel free to wish me a Happy Blog-iversary in the comments. And Happy New Year to all my readers!

Books Read in 2016, Annotated

I know my posts have slowed waaaaayyyy down this year, but I can't skip my annual list! Though I haven't much time for reading, every year I am amazed by how much I get through by reading just 10-15 minutes a night (I like to send my brain on vacation just before I fall sleep), and by using time in the car (shout out to Audiobooks!). I also did a lot of listening while doing house projects like stripping wallpaper and varnish.

This year, I break down my list into those two categories.

Hard Copies (non-audio):

Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
This one has been on my mental list for years, ever since Pilot Brother, who isn't a huge reader of long books, told me it was really good. "It's like a soap opera," he said. I didn't think it was quite that accessible, but I did enjoy it, as Russian tragedies go. I finished it, which I can't say for War and Peace, and I've never attempted more than excerpts from The Brothers Karamazov. (Somehow I graduated from Wheaton College without reading it, which is quite a feat! One day, I will. :)

The Heaven Tree
The Green Branch
The Scarlet Seed
(Edith Pargeter's The Heaven Tree Trilogy)
Better known as Ellis Peters, the author of the Brother Cadfael mysteries, Edith Pargeter writes historical fiction set in medieval England and Wales. This trilogy is truly her masterpiece, a tragedy full of heartbreaking beauty, redemption, and some of the most memorable characters and places I've ever encountered. I even bought an extra copy of this book for friends to borrow!

Just One Look (Harlan Coben)
Pulp fiction that I didn't have to concentrate on too much, perfect for reading in snatches backstage during productions of summer Shakespeare in which I was performing.

Hamilton, the Revolution (Lin Manuel-Miranda and Jeremy McCarter)
My niece had this coffee table book at the farm this summer, and I just had to buy it as a gift for myself to read while recuperating from surgery in August. It has the complete libretto from the Broadway musical, plus sidenotes explaining word choices, including historical details they reference, and evolution of the script into its final form. The rest of the book was about the creative process and the collaboration that produced the smash hit (which I think is brilliant on so many levels). I'll return to this book when I need creative inspiration!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (J.K. Rowling)
Couldn't wait to read it, but it was disappointing. The script/screenplay format seemed just a skeleton of a story. It might make a good movie, but it seemed thin even for that. :(

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Jonathan Safran Foer)
This aftermath-of-9/11 story was creatively told, with various chapters written in first person from different characters' perspectives. You had to read closely to figure out whose viewpoint you were in. I can see why it's assigned reading at the high school level; however, there is some mature material and a lot of language. Many sad and lovely moments.

The Merchant's Partner
(Michael Jecks)
I enjoyed this medieval-era mystery. But I can't think of much else to say about it.

A Fatal Grace
The Long Way Home
Still Life
(Louise Penny)
That's the order in which I read these, but make sure YOU read these in order! After the first one, I realized that besides the mystery at hand, there was a narrative that spanned more than the one book I was reading, turning these books into something more than a mystery series. Set in Canada, it took me awhile to "warm up" to the wintry descriptions of the culture in Three Pines, a quaint Quebecois village stocked with non-stock characters, but there is a thoughtful, artistic quality to these books that I appreciate.

The War Against Miss Winter
The Winter of our Discontent
Winter in June
(Kathryn Miller Haines)
After discovering there were only two books in The Girl is Murder series (see below), I quickly went in search of other books by this author! This sleuth is a spunky, wise-cracking actress in NYC during WW2. Both series are delightfully full of war-era details and slang, peopled with mobsters, private eyes, GI's, flirty girls, and temperamental actors and directors. These books probably are considered YA, but they are so colorful, anyone would enjoy them.

Farewell to Manzanar (Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston)
A completely different look at WW2, this book is an engaging memoir of growing up in a Japanese internment camp in CA. 

Audiobooks

Insurgent
Divergent
Allegiant
Four
(Veronica Roth)
I can see why this series was so popular! Now I need to watch the movies.

Henry Huggins (Beverly Cleary)
I remember enjoying this book as a kid, so I listened to it with the two youngest kids, on our trips back and forth to Milwaukee while I was directing the musical Tom Sawyer. We all enjoyed the simple problems Henry and his new dog Ribsy faced in each chapter. A preface by the author explained how it came to be; I didn't realize it was the popular author's very first book!

Peter Pan (J. M. Barrie)
I love the delightful turns of phrase in this classic children's story.

Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen)
It was time to revisit this one, which I own. So thankful that I have a tape player in my 2002 Prius!

The City (Dean Koontz)
This was a beautiful story to read while race was a hot issue in the news--or any time. A story of music and childhood, told as a reminiscence into a tape recorder by an old man, a jazz pianist and child prodigy. A little bit of magical realism, a little bit of sleuthing, with tender portraits of people. I liked it very much. (I couldn't recall the author, and having just discovered who it is, I am shocked! This is not one of his typical action-packed page-turners.)

The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls)
Wow, this one was good!! Probably my pick of the bunch, if you are looking for a recommendation. This is an autobiography of growing up in a highly dysfunctional family, where kids were encouraged to be independent to the point of being totally neglected by their alcoholic father and self-absorbed mother. Just writing that sentence makes me wonder who would want to read this? But the author's tone is what's so incredible--she was able to receive the good that her parents offered, without whining about what they didn't provide. Her clear, objective storytelling even draws humor out of their situation at times. Her story should be encouraging to parents everywhere, not just because we look so good by comparison, but it makes one appreciate how much kids are capable of on their own. It's validating to Montessori, unschooler, free-range parent types, and it's reassuring to the helicopter, hand-holding tendencies that so many of us fight. Surprisingly, 4 out of 5 of the siblings ended up as remarkably healthy adults; the one really dysfunctional child lived mostly with Christian neighbors who took her in. It supports the consistent research that being raised by two biological parents results in the best outcomes for kids. Again, this should be encouraging to those who've managed to stay married, if we've done nothing else for our kids. It's easy to underestimate what a gift that is to our children!

A Tale of Two Castles (Gail Carson Levine)
Another enjoyable tale by this excellent children's author.

Claim to Fame (Margaret Peterson Haddix)
Interesting premise to this YA novel about a former child star who develops the ability to hear what people think about her, any time she leaves the walls of the home her father found for her before he died.

Rumpole Misbehaves (John Mortimer)
British husband humor at its best. Rumpole is a wig-wearing barrister who refers to his wife as She Who Must Be Obeyed. In this episode, he pursues the position of QC (Queen's Council) while his wife decides to study for the bar exam and become a barrister herself.

The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)
Like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, this story was also creatively told from a variety of perspectives. I enjoyed the audiobook, which had a different reader for each of the characters. It was a mystery, ultimately, that unfolded indirectly and surprisingly.

Joyland (Stephen King)
I had never read a Stephen King novel, but years ago my Professor Brother had recommended him. This one had more language than I like in an audiobook with kids around, but it was a well-crafted, suspenseful tale set in a creepy carnival. It screams "screenplay" to me; I'm surprised there hasn't been a movie?

The Colorado Kid (Stephen King)
No language in this one, except for the thick Maine dialect this engaging short story required. Not a satisfying ending; it's basically the tale of an unsolved mystery that remains one.

The Fault in Our Stars (John Green)
I haven't seen the movie, but the book was so good, I understand its popularity. Really touching.

Velocity (Dean Koontz)
A suspense thriller more typical of the author than The City. A bit too psycho and disturbing for my taste, but well-done.

The Girl is Murder
The Girl is Trouble
(Kathryn Miller Haines)
I wasn't far into the first one before I knew I'd found a winner! Chicklet14 quickly got hooked as well. See summary (above) of the Rosie Winter series, which isn't available on audio, unfortunately. This fine reader really brought them to life.

If I Ever Get Out of Here (Eric L. Gansworth)
This YA novel would be good for a study of contemporary Native American life and issues; although it's set in the 70's, I would bet that prejudice near reservations hasn't changed much. It was a pretty good story, but took a little too long to get there. Lovers of 70's rock music might also enjoy; each chapter title (like the book title) is a Beatles' song.

Taken at the Flood
Endless Night
Evil Under the Sun
(Agatha Christie)
Ah, Agatha. So reliably enjoyable and well-written! Chicklet14 is still a fan as well, especially of Poirot novels read by Hugh Fraser, which we're running out of, sadly. The above titles are all Poirot, but only the first one is by our favorite reader.

For more year-end book lists and reviews, visit Semicolon's annual round-up!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

New Season

I'm waaaay behind, but life is racing by so fast I can't keep up!

I need to write a post about Couple Number Two...plus we had two weddings...and it's time to write my annual book list post! 

I miss blogging, but it seems it's not the season.

Remember awhile back when I stopped homeschooling and put the two youngest in school? At the time, I clearly heard God say, "I have other things for you to do." That first year, God unexpectedly gave me an opportunity I had hardly dare dream of--to be lead director for a musical, with the theater ministry we've been involved with for over a decade. I ended up directing two musicals last year, and it was a huge learning curve. I loved it. 

I was having so much fun that I even questioned if this was really how God wanted me spending my time! Again, a clear answer came:  "I opened these doors for you; of course I want you to walk through them!" So I walked, with joy. Though it's non-traditional ministry, I believe strongly in what we offer--a place where Christian youth (and sometimes their non-Christian friends) find a community, encouragement in their faith, engagement in a purpose, and training in skills they will use and enjoy for a lifetime: singing, public speaking, improv, and more.

Then two of our adult children got engaged, and I had to focus on two new productions--weddings in August and October! Both were successful (they're married!) and equally lovely. (A post WILL follow, eventually, I promise.) In between, I had a hernia repair surgery, just for a change of pace. I also began teaching junior high Sunday School; Papa Rooster and I started leading the youth group; and I was assistant director for the fall musical.

Meanwhile, after Wedding #1, we got news that took some time to process:  Papa Rooster's corporate job was ending September 1. And it had been providing over 50% of our monthly income.

Now, Light of Christ is paying us as much as they can, but we are still a small church with a perpetual problem:  It seems that every time we get a new couple or family, a current one moves away, or some breadwinner loses a job. Our operating budget has been consistently pretty tight, though as a congregation we are growing in many ways.

We all want Father Rooster to be a full-time pastor to our church, not out looking for another job to add to his plate. It seemed clear to me that this was one of the "other things for you to do" that God had told me about. I knew it was time for me to go back to work. (Directing is fun and worthwhile, but not lucrative.)

The logical thing for me to do--it pays very well, per hour, and is extremely flexible--is to be a substitute teacher in the public schools. Especially since I have an Elementary Education degree (and an IL teaching certificate, albeit lapsed). It took two months from applying to actually working, but since mid-November, I've been subbing at least 20 hours a week. (A post WILL follow...eventually!)

This fall I've also spent far more hours than I care to tally scrambling to figure out health insurance and car insurance (separate problem, but needing to take the two married kids off, plus two accidents this past summer, means we've had to re-do everything), creating a new budget, checking to see what government programs we qualify for, canceling and tightening up on whatever bills we can, etc. 

It's a new season.

But God has new and good things in store for us in it; I can see just a few glimmers on the horizon! It reminds me again of what I've always told my kids:  If you follow God, it's always an adventure. You never quite know where He's leading. Like any good father taking his child on an adventure trip, he may plan something that will stretch you, but He wants to surprise and delight you too. As our newlyweds start off on their journeys, we find ourselves on a new one too. Yet it's familiar. Though we can't see round the bend, we've been on this road before, with God. It should be a good trip!




Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Couple Number One

As promised, a post about Blondechick and her young man! 



But what do I call him??

Sometimes I think I'll dispense with the pseudonyms altogether, as I realize how simple it would be to figure out our "true identities." However, using our actual names seems too personal to put out there for all the world to see.

I will call him Jedi Knight.



It's tricky to share their story, as it's not really mine to tell--so I'll tell my own. Our daughter was in a prodigal phase of her young life. She had come back to the Lord for awhile, but had begun to drift away again...until she met Jedi Knight. About a year before that, I had started praying for a specific type of husband for her, for a man who was not just attracted to her outer beauty--there were plenty of those--but one who was called by God to love and care for her inner soul. I knew he'd have to have much grace and forgiveness; in fact, I prayed specifically for a Hosea for her. If you know the Old Testament story, you remember that Hosea was told by God to marry a promiscuous woman. It was a tall order for a godly young man to fill.

God spoke to Jedi Knight about Blondechick through a dream before they even met--at a New Year's Eve party 1.5 years ago--and He confirmed it with another dream about asking a man if he could marry his daughter. When Jedi Knight saw a picture of Papa Rooster, he recognized him as the man in his dream! Also, Blondechick remembered reading Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love, based on the Hosea/Gomer story, and told me she and Jedi Knight had discussed the similarities in their story. I waited a few months before I told her of my specific prayers for a Hosea--I didn't want to unduly influence their early relationship--but as their intentions deepened, it was a joy to share with her the way that God had answered that prayer!



Jedi Knight is a young man of strength and conviction, solid in his faith and submission to God, with a deep love for Blondechick that has not wavered even in trial and testing. He's a manager at a Walgreen's; he's also an excellent drummer and a die-hard Star Wars fan. His parents live in Kenosha and are warm, delightful people to be related to. They are committed Christians, and they will be flexible in-laws to coordinate holidays with, we've already discovered!

Several months ago Blondechick left her stable but undemanding job as a receptionist at a law office to take a more challenging job as a pharmacy tech. The 10-hour shifts and unpredictable schedule, coupled with the stress of wedding planning and related financial stresses, plus a move (into the apartment she and Jedi Knight will share soon), triggered serious anxiety, insomnia, and difficulty eating. Jedi Knight has been a steady rock through it all! She recently switched to a waitressing job with a more manageable schedule, and she's doing much better. It's hard to watch your kids struggle, but so good when they learn and grow from adversity, just as we did.

In less than two weeks, they'll be Mr. and Mrs. Jedi Knight, and we'll have 5 sons. It's funny--I thought our family would shrink as our kids grew up and moved out. Instead, with fiances and fiancees and their parents, all local, our family is growing exponentially! 

God is so good.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Midsummer Update

So it seems my blog posts are getting further and further apart...which saddens me but reflects the season of life we're in! It's been two years since we moved into our God-selected house, and those two years have been so full that we still haven't completely unpacked, hung pictures, or stripped the wallpaper I was sure we'd get rid of right away. So much has happened with our kids, our church, and for me and Papa Rooster. So busy, but so good!!

The biggest news is with our kids. In my last post, I hinted that B21 may have met THE girl. I can't believe I had the confidence to post that, but we loved her the first time we met her, and it was clear that B21 was smitten too. It wasn't long before we were talking about them getting married...and skipping to the end of the story, we now have Blondechick's wedding August 7, and B21's will be October 16!

I promise that I will write a post about these two new additions to our family--and post pictures!--but for now, praise God with me that these two adult children, who have both gone through scary prodigal phases, are marrying solid Christ-followers. When I think of the futures I have imagined and feared for these two (and for us), I have to keep pinching myself and praising God for his work in their lives! So completely God's hand. And such incredible human beings to add to our family! I am overwhelmed with God's goodness.

In other news...Tom Sawyer, the show I directed in Milwaukee in the spring, was a great success. We had two extremely talented brothers as Tom and Huck, and a super-strong supporting cast. It was a blast directing two times in Milwaukee last year and getting to know all the wonderful families there. For next year, though, I've requested to stay in Kenosha because it is B17's senior year, and it was so hard having him doing Godspell in Kenosha while Chicklet13, B11 and I were in Milwaukee doing Tom Sawyer, especially since our public performances were at the exact same times. Fortunately our school day shows were at different times, so we got to see him play Judas one time--and it was the most powerful portrayal of Judas I've ever seen. He also sounded amazing starting out the show as John the Baptist, singing "Prepare Ye." I was sad to only see it once, and the siblings really missed being in a show together.

In Tom Sawyer, Chicklet played Amy Lawrence, Tom's previous girlfriend. As Tom tells Becky, "she's so darn perky, it could make you throw up"--and Chicklet had a lot of fun playing up the "perky" part, skipping and bouncing across stage, flashing her smile about and tossing her long curls in the boys' faces. B11 was one of the Tom's Gang Wannabes, who tagged along after the big boys and reprised one of their dances. As is true of B11 no matter where he is, he had great energy onstage!

Chicklet's first year in public middle school was an accomplishment--straight A's, a citizenship award, and two-time Student of the Month. (It's refreshing to have a child who actually cares about grades!) She's chosen to return to the same school for 8th grade next year.

We attended our first-ever fifth-grade graduation ceremony, filled with thankfulness for the great experience B11 has had in elementary school, with the same wonderful teacher both years. He's done so well, also with good grades, a Kiwanic Terrific Kid award and a citizenship award. For 6th grade, rather than going to the local school that Chicklet attends, he'll be going to a charter school with smaller class sizes, more of an elementary school feel (it's K-8) and a charter for learning that is hands-on, cooperative and quite challenging. 

Do I miss homeschooling? I'm often asked. I was too busy directing two shows last year to miss it at all; this year I won't be lead-directing any shows, so maybe I'll feel it more, but I also feel like these two youngest kids are where they are supposed to be for now. They are both thriving, and for Chicklet, being in public school has strengthened her faith and quickened a strong compassion for others. I don't think our older kids would have done well going to public school for middle school (B17 went for part of 7th grade and hated it), but for her, it's been the right thing. But as always, we take it year by year, child by child!

In June, Chicklet attended Project Dance camp with her Kenosha team, the culmination of two semesters of classes. It was an intense week of dancing for hours on end. She learned so much, made lots of new friends and loved her first overnight camp experience, staying in a dorm and eating in the dining hall. After she returned, she told me she can't wait to go to college. "Don't feel bad," she said, glowing, "but I can't wait to be independent. And I ate healthy every meal, Mom!" I'm proud and pleased, but sad to see her growing up so fast!

B17 had the honor of going to the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska, for a week; his high school's production of Dogfight was one of only 11 high schools selected to perform there. It was quite an experience for him! A few weekends later, his improv team competed in the Improvapalooza, an all-day improv competition. They didn't repeat last year's first-place victory, but it was still a fun day of great improv, and B17 enjoyed renewing friendships from previous years and from previous summer camps. 

B17 started visiting colleges last year, took the ACT twice, and will begin applying for college and scholarships this summer. Hard to believe his senior year is already looming! He's working, taking voice lessons, and continues to write songs--he sings and accompanies himself on the piano.

In addition to working as a shift supervisor at Starbucks, B21 continues his singer/songwriter career, with a regular gig playing on Sunday nights at a popular local restaurant. He recently won an online contest, garnering the most "likes" on a video of himself playing guitar and singing one of his own compositions, which will now be professionally recorded by the studio sponsoring the competition.

B25 works 10-15 hours a week stocking shelves; he also helps with chores, runs errands and plays chauffeur for his younger siblings, which is such a blessing! He also updates the church website by uploading new sermons each week.

Blondechick23 has moved into an apartment, where her fiance will join her once they are married, and she's enjoying unpacking her shower gifts, decorating, and wedding planning. She's recently gone back to waitressing, at a local establishment not far from their apartment.

B21 also just moved into an apartment very close to his workplace, where he's batching it until his wedding; he and his wife will start taking college classes in January, while they continue to work.

Since he moved out, B11 moved in to his old bedroom with B17 so that Chicklet13 could finally have her own room. With two kids out of the house, you'd think our schedule would be simpler, but with two engagements, we've added two more people to the family, plus their parents, who we are delighted to be getting to know--so the net effect is surprisingly more people, not less!

Father Rooster continues to work one day a week for his company, but the rest of his week for the church. Light of Christ continues to be a remarkable place of "love, hope and healing," as our mission statement puts it. Most recently, we started an Alpha group, which is for folks who want to learn more about Christianity, and it's been well-attended. We've also added a service on Sunday nights, once a month through the summer, called Oasis, for spiritual renewal and refreshment. Through the summer, I'm meeting four times with the middle schoolers (B11 and C13 included) for Bible study and a summer activity (the beach, the pool). We did the same thing last summer and it was a hit.

Finally, I enjoyed summer Shakespeare so much last year that I talked Chicklet13 into joining me this summer, and Papa Rooster said he'd do it too, if his dad would. (It has been great having my father-in-law living just blocks away from us! He moved to Kenosha last summer.) So all 4 of us are doing community theater together currently. We are performing abridged versions of Romeo and Juliet and As You Like It. Papa Rooster has the biggest part, playing Lord Capulet in R&J; his dad has the next biggest part, playing Adam, the faithful old servant, in AYLI. They are both amazing actors! I'm in both, with two small parts--Lady Montague in R&J, and Corin, the shepherd, in AYLI. Chicklet is playing Petra (Peter), plus another another Servant in R&J. She was also asked to understudy the lead character of Rosalind in AYLI, an honor that she hopes she won't actually have to perform.

That's more than enough for now! But now we're mostly caught up...so I can write about these engagements next time!